Full disclosure: I didn’t actually physically attend Microsoft Convergence 2012 in Houston, Texas. However, that doesn’t mean you have to feel left in the dark, thanks to the immersive experience that is the social web of our times. With live webcasts, near-live blogging and some 6000 tweets on the #CONV12 hashtag, keeping up with the online buzz has never been easier. Here’s my summary of what the event looked like through the eyes of a virtual attendee and some thoughts on where Microsoft and its Dynamics product line appear to be heading based on the announcements at Convergence.
The opening keynote is where the stage is set for the rest of the event, so watching the live broadcast on Monday was definitely on my agenda. Sure, it’s all about building up hype for your products by telling how great you’ve done so far, how excited you are about your future roadmap and showing off with future concept demos that have little to do with the current reality. So what! You need a little show business alongside your business applications conference.
Having the luxury of my PC keyboard & mouse at my disposal during the event allowed me to experiment with Storify, a social media storytelling tool. I captured the best tweets, photos and screenshots during the keynote and compiled them into my Convergence 2012 story. If you’re anything like me, the mental barrier for sitting down and watching a recorded conference event for 1.5 hours is quite high, so why not glance through the highlights of the show on the Storify summary? After that, you can decide if you want to read the full transcript or watch the recording on the Virtual Convergence site.
Some notes picked up from the opening keynote included:
- The Dynamics CRM momentum now stands at 2,250,000 users in 33,000 customer organizations.
- “There are no happy Siebel customers in the world, there just aren’t.” – COO Kevin Turner on Microsofts internal journey from Siebel to Dynamics CRM.
- Nearly half of the deals won by Microsoft over Salesforce.com have been due to the on-premises option and the hybrid model.
It’s Windows reimagined time all across Redmond now as we’re nearing the launch of Windows 8 later this year. This means everything that can be shown as a Metro style app running on a tablet, will be shown precisely that way. The fictional Contoso Electronics scenario of the big keynote demo used a highly customized UI built for the retail store experience only. A much more interesting demo was the project management Metro app that looked so realistic you could imagine it becoming an actual UI to some future Microsoft product to be rolled out at Windows 8 launch.
We didn’t get any official screenshots of a Dynamics CRM Metro app yet, but luckily Garth Knutson was able to snap & tweet this picture of a UI concept presented in one of the sessions. Just imagine if assigning users onto a Dynamics CRM opportunity record would look like this, how much higher would the user adoption of a CRM system be among sales people? Ah, CRM reimagined…
But the road to metro is paved with Apples. The actual tablet product Microsoft had to show at Convergence was the Dynamics CRM Mobile client for iPad, which meant that Apple devices were well presented in many of the Convergence sessions. Funnily enough, during the conference an internal email leak revealed that Microsoft was banning the use of company budget to buy any Apple products for its Sales, Marketing, Services, IT, & Operations Group. Oh well, guess we won’t be seeing many iPads on stage anymore in the following events. For those of you who haven’t seen the current client yet (developed by CWR Mobility), see my previous post on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile iPad screenshots.
An important aspect to note is that the move towards Metro apps and tablet devices does also have an impact on traditional desktop usage of Dynamics CRM. Back in November I speculated that the legacy of Outlook could not be carried over to the world of Windows 8 tablets in its existing form. Since then this assumption has only been enforced by the announcement of Windows on ARM (WOA) tablets with no classic Windows application support and no sign of Outlook in the list of Office apps promised for these “iPad killers”. What this means is that the functionality exclusive to Dynamics CRM Outlook client must be moved to the cloud. At Convergence, the following functionality was more or less revealed to be included in the R9 release later this year:
- Direct synchronization of activities through Exchange (instead of Outlook)
- Support for “track in CRM” functionality in Outlook Web Access (OWA client)
Woo-hoo! It’s been a long time coming, but to me this is a clear sign that Dynamics CRM is definitely on the right track in terms of becoming more compatible with the habits of today’s mobile workforce; how they manage their activities and messages on multiple clients, not just the single Outlook on their work laptop. Making the CRM features available through new channels, such as the Office 15 Agaves, is very important for making Dynamics CRM a relevant tool for knowledge sharing as the applications and devices surrounding it are evolving.